Barcelona and Madrid rail sta­tions evac­u­ated af­ter gre­nade-shaped belt buckle found

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Sam Jones in Madrid and agen­cies

Po­lice evac­u­ated the main rail­way sta­tions in Barcelona and Madrid dur­ing Wed­nes­day morn­ing’s rush hour af­ter a belt buckle in the shape of a hand gre­nade trig­gered a se­cu­rity alert.

The in­ci­dent, which turned out to be a false alarm, ap­pears to have been caused by a woman car­ry­ing the belt buckle on to a train from Barcelona to Madrid.

The re­gional po­lice force, the Mos­sos d’Es­quadra, said an ex­plo­sives unit was dis­patched to the high-speed rail tracks at the cen­tral Sants sta­tion in Barcelona at 8am fol­low­ing a call from rail­way work­ers.

The alarm was trig­gered af­ter se­cu­rity of­fi­cers saw an ob­ject “with the shape of a pos­si­ble ex­plo­sive de­vice” on their scan­ners.

A photo re­leased by the force ap­peared to show the out­line of a hand gre­nade in a suit­case. A po­lice spokesper­son told the As­so­ci­ated Press that the ob­ject was a gre­nade-shaped belt buckle.

Two trains were searched be­fore the Mos­sos de­clared that the ob­ject “posed no threat”.

The se­cu­rity alert also led to the evac­u­a­tion of Madrid’s Atocha sta­tion, but po­lice said this was a false alarm.

“Our of­fi­cers have car­ried out the ap­pro­pri­ate checks at Madrid’s Atocha sta­tion and found it was a false alarm,” Spain’s na­tional po­lice said in a tweet. “The po­lice op­er­a­tion is over and ev­ery­thing is back to nor­mal.”

The Mos­sos later con­firmed that the ob­ject and the woman car­ry­ing it had been lo­cated at Atocha sta­tion, adding that po­lice had es­tab­lished that the ob­ject was not dan­ger­ous.

It was un­clear why the sus­pi­cious case was al­lowed on to the train.

At about 9.20am Spain’s na­tional rail com­pany, Renfe, said that a par­tial high-speed ser­vice had been re­stored at the Barcelona sta­tion.

The Mos­sos also tweeted: “Ser­vices are be­gin­ning to be re­stored at Sants sta­tion af­ter var­i­ous spe­cial­ist units car­ried out the ap­pro­pri­ate checks.”

An As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter at Sants sta­tion saw long queues of pas­sen­gers wait­ing for rail traf­fic to re­sume.

Atocha sta­tion was the site of a bomb­ing in March 2004 which killed 193 peo­ple and wounded about 2,000, Spain’s dead­li­est mil­i­tant at­tack. Po­lice say it was car­ried out by Is­lamist mil­i­tants in­spired by al-Qaida.

A home­grown ex­trem­ist cell killed 16 peo­ple in Au­gust last year in Barcelona and a nearby coastal re­sort in con­sec­u­tive ve­hi­cle and knife at­tacks that were later claimed by the Is­lamic State group.

Pho­to­graph: Toni Al­bir/EPA

Trav­ellers wait for in­for­ma­tion at the Sants AVE high-speed train sta­tion in Barcelona.

Pho­to­graph: Mos­sos d'Es­quadra

The hand-gre­nade-shaped belt buckle thatcaused the scare.

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